Category Archives: Obama

Fear & Loathing in the U.S.A.: “Patriot Movement” Issues Ultimatum Via Youtube

In a Youtube video that has now been removed, members of the right-wing “patriot movement” warned Obama (“and co”) to “leave now and give us our country back.” If not, “‘We, The People’ will systematically dismantle you, destroy you and reclaim what is rightfully ours.”

“Dead line [sic] for your national response: October 15, 2009.”

And make no mistake about what it is they’re threatening: in a final note to “patriots,” the video says to “Be prepared for when the fateful day of the declaration of war [emphasis added] is nationally announced.”

So, ultimatum and threat of war + people bringing guns to Obama’s speech + the kind of rhetoric directed toward John F. Kennedy before his assassination (except now we can also vote on whether the president should live via Facebook poll) = are you worried yet?

FDR told us, “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.” And that’s exactly what I’m afraid of–people’s fear. The fear of “the other.” People’s fear for their “way of life.” The 9/12 protests: Fear of government. Images that depict Obama as Hitler: Fear.

Fear incited by right-wing pundits and politicians who really should know better. Fear translated into hate.

When people’s fears have been brought to a pitch–conspiracies, demonizing, scapegoating–the danger of violence arises. That’s why Latino organizations took a stand against Lou Dobbs’ fear-mongering rhetoric: to protect themselves. That’s what makes the growth of militia and white supremacist groups across the country so alarming.

Perhaps even more important (and difficult) than health care reform–although that’s a big one–progressives need to figure out how to undermine the power of fear in shaping our current national discourse. It all ties together anyway: With “kill your grandma” rhetoric Democrats are kept from pursing their policy goals.

Under the Bush years, we were conditioned to be afraid with the color alert system (it’s orange today! ORANGE!) and constant Dick Cheney rhetoric about our national security (and then some distractions about how it’s really gay marriage that will destroy America). It’s easier to cause an atmosphere of fear than to dispel it: hence the desperate Republican Party’s continued attraction to these cheap tricks. But Democrats can’t stoop to those same tactics–the 9/11 truth movement show that liberals are capable of whipping up fear and conspiracy theories too.

National security goal #1 should be to work toward civil discourse, against fear–bringing a new meaning to the “war on terror.”

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Filed under Obama, Right-wing movements

Oh, to be Secular in the Summer

Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel blogged on something atheists had to celebrate this 4th:

“After eight years in the Bush wilderness — and an even longer period of ostracism by the Washington political establishment — a rising demographic of like-minded Americans and a new president are guiding us back to our roots as a secular nation.”

Jaws dropped when Obama referenced nonbelievers in his inauguration speech. Though the day had its issues, from Rick Warren to a multiplicity of religious references and figures, with one word Obama handed a vital commodity to “nonbelievers”: visibility.

Say what you will about Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, their snark snatched attention for atheism, which it desperately needed. (Now atheism has buses–I saw one of the mobile ads in New York yesterday.) While their less-than-perfectly-tolerant rhetoric might have offended some religious people, nonetheless I think they did more good than harm in capturing the spotlight. People often distrust the unfamiliar, so as long as atheists remain in the shadows, mistrust and misunderstanding proliferate.

Of course, Obama doesn’t need to grab headlines with ploys like Dawkins’ or Hitchens’. All he has to do is make use of his Obama star power, bringing visibility and a modicum of support.

Now, maybe you could complain that he could stand to do better than just a shout-out–and that he steered clear of the term “atheist,” which, for some reason, people tend to have trouble with (I recall a comedian once talking about coming out to her parents as an atheist–they knew she didn’t believe in God, but an atheist?!). He’s paid a lot of lip service to the LGBT community that hasn’t come to fruition either, once citing his Christianity as his reason for opposing gay marriage, and the inroads the Religious Right has made have not been reset to neutral. Just because atheists have been so downtrodden doesn’t mean we should give too much applause to scraps from on high.

Still, I’m happy for any help in confronting prejudice toward “nonbelievers” and helping draw them out of the closet. And for giving atheists a momentary warm fuzzy feeling: though rising above is admirable, it’s easier to treat religion with tolerance and respect when you’re getting a little in return.

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Filed under Atheism, Obama, Religion